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If You Are a Sage Business Partner Who Is Thinking You May Want To Go To Sage Summit 2014…

Today is the last day to lock in the early bird rate of $399. If you wait until tomorrow, you’ll have to pay $799.

Preregistering is just to lock in the $399 price with no commitment. When registration opens in April, you can then register with the special code\email. They don’t ask for anything now but your email information to reserve the price.

You won’t get an email when you sign up for updates. You will be receiving an email in a few weeks with more instructions on how to register at the $399 conference rate.

Visit SageSummit.com and click on “sign up for updates” and enter code PREPART.

To be clear: You won’t get an email when you sign up. You will get one in a few weeks. You aren’t registering. You are registering your intent to register. You aren’t locked in to register but you are locking in the $399 price to register.

Have further questions? Contact the Sage Summit Team at InfoSageSummit@sage.com.

Sage Sales Academy for the win

If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and check out and attend the Sage Sales Academy.

Many small business owners started their businesses because they have a love and passion for helping customers with a specific set of products and services. For the most part, independent software resellers are no different.

Because their main drive is traditionally around helping customers, most owners don’t like to look at themselves as salespeople. And, in fact, “sales” often is thought of as a dirty word and making sales is a necessary evil, nothing more.

In part, this stems from the understanding that no one wants to “be sold” on anything. So selling people on things seems like a bad idea, right?

The good news for resellers is that you don’t need to sell anything to anyone.

Your prospects have a need and it is your duty – if you truly believe in the superiority of your products and services – to determine if you can help them fill that need. If you can, you can paint the picture of how your products and services will do that better than the next guy or gal’s solution (or the dreaded “do nothing” solution).

This is consulting and problem-solving and solution creation.

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The top reason you should consider joining (or rejoining) Sage Leadership Association today

http://www.flickr.com/photos/birgerking/3145391821/sizes/z/in/photostream/First let’s start off by explaining something that I think is confusing about Sage Leadership Association (SLA): it’s current incarnation has nothing to do with the software publisher Sage.

I bring this up in case anyone on the fence is worried that there is a hidden agenda to promote Sage Software products, policies or programs. That’s not the case.

The SLA mission is to evolve leadership and promote strategic thinking among professional service firms (or professional knowledge firms if you prefer the new age terminology). This mission has nothing to do with your company’s relationship, or lack of relationship, with Sage Software. If you have a hunger to grow your business and collaborate with other thought leaders, SLA is a great place to be.

(I suggested to the SLA board that they consider a new brand push – including a new, clearer name – as a way to spread the message. We’ll see where that goes.)

Putting aside the name confusion, let’s talk about what SLA has to offer.

If you are like me and love to “sharpen the saw”, you might find yourself on information overload these days. There are an overabundance of books, videos, conferences, retreats, events, etc. these days to help you scratch that itch.

I have a stack of books and attend a lot of conferences and other events so I know how it can be. In fact, sometimes attending these conferences can be stressful because you hear so many great ideas that you simply don’t have time to implement when you get back to your office.

And that’s the difference between SLA and those other options: at SLA, they present the information in a focused workshop format so you can actually work on the topic at hand during the day and a half long retreat.

To me, this is a huge benefit.

You are not just committing the time to learn a great new concept at SLA. You will be given time and guidance to start to flesh out tactics to apply what you’ve learned. And you will hear comments and suggestions and questions from other business leaders doing the same thing.

It’s very interactive, very hands on, very beneficial. Particularly if you are feeling starved for time in your normal day-to-day back at the office.

If this type of event appeals to you, you should consider SLA.

I strongly recommend it.

If you have questions, take a look here or comment below and I will do my best to address the questions.

Saying goodbye to Tom Miller – or – what do you do when Superman retires?

Making work look like fun

Making work look like fun

Tom Miller has announced that he will retire from Sage North America on March 29, 2013.

This is not new news – it’s been out there for a while now. It took me a while to figure out what I would like to say.

I would like to use this space and honor his legacy.

Personally I’ve always been the type of guy that likes to sharpen the saw by reading smart ideas by smart people presented in new and interesting ways. Yet, while reading these sources of information and inspiration, I’m always reminded of the classics – Zig Ziglar, Dale Carnegie, Peter Drucker, Napoleon Hill – which, to me, are the fundamental sources upon which most other business philosophies are built upon.

I am not going out too far on a limb to say: Tom Miller is the embodiment of these fundamental sources of business inspiration.

He’s a living, breathing example of those classics.

I would challenge anyone to name a time where they interacted with Tom and didn’t come away richer for the experience. Whether it’s direct advice or, more likely than not, you walking away thinking you came up with a great idea even though he skillfully planted it, fed and watered it and helped it grow.

Tom has mastered the unbelievably difficult skill of helping others reach their potential. He’s not in the fish-handing-out business, he’s in the teaching-people-to-fish business.

He embodies the positive thinking, get ‘er done, 1 + 1 can equal 3 mentality that I aspire to maintain. Tom doesn’t see obstacles and problems, he sees opportunities and exciting challenges. Tom believes in the power of free enterprise and the ability of sharp business owners to find ways to create value for their customers, their partners and themselves.

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Camaraderie dominates at Sage Summit 2012 Partner Appreciation Night

Image

Rich Heidal of Azamba and Tom Miller of Sage

The Sage Summit Partner Appreciation Night is always a lot of fun and this year was no different.

The centerpiece of the event was the partner bands – bands comprised of various folks throughout the channel and Sage that come together to get up on stage and rock out. It definitely seemed that the groups had more practice time this year as they gelled together well and produced some great music. I tip my hat to all the performers.

Another related form of entertainment was watching the dance floor as attendees jumped up and got down to the music.

A particular highlight and subject of the Twitter-sphere was Sage VP of Channel Management, Tom Miller, decked out in Nashville style regalia topped off with his cowboy hat. It looks like Mr. Miller has gone country on us.

Should channel partners expect like minded channel programs in the future? The Fast Track program held at a rodeo? Complementary lassos included with every Solution Partner renewal? Channel calls led by a sing along to the latest country hits? Time will tell …

For me, one of the best components of these events (and Sage Summit as a whole) is the chance to catch up with Sage employees and other Sage partners face-to-face. It’s always great to get different perspectives and hear how people are doing in a relaxed, casual environment.

It’s like catching up with thousands of your closest friends. :)

My general impression this year has been that most people are more optimistic about the market in general and with Sage specifically. People seem to be busy helping their customers in all capacities – upgrades, additional functionality, reporting, etc.

This is a very good thing and hopefully will remain on course in the coming months and years.

I hope all the attendees had as good of a time as I did.

You are here – Welcome to the Gaylord Opryland’s Convention Center

Whenever you have a convention with 4,000 (last estimated number that I saw) attendees, you need a big space. Well … the Gaylord Opryland’s Convention Center meets that bill. And then some.

I knew it was bad when they gave me an emergency locator panic button during check-in. Apparently if you get lost, you can push the button and emergency services will send a rescue team to guide you back to the main path.

Ok … that might be a bit of an exaggeration but it is big.

In fact, I was speaking to one Sage partner (please comment below if it was you – I apologize but I can’t recall who it was) and said that any hotel that needed Directory Assistance signs is big. She replied any hotel with it’s own freaking river running through it is REALLY big.

Yes – there is actually a river in the hotel. You can even take a canoe ride around the property.

Sage, recognizing the enormity of the venue, has put together some handy videos starring Greg Tirico to help you get around. They are worth a quick look-see.

Click here for the videos.

And as you move from event to event if you come across a poor, tired traveller who looks lost and confused, please take pity and help them find their way back to civilization. That would be most kind.

A river runs through it

Business card analysis 2: re-birth of business card analysis

A loooooonggggg time ago (ok – it was just last year but a lot has happened in the last year), I attended the Sage Marketing Academy in sunny Irvine, California.

The class, led by marketing gurus Dan Kraus and Laura Lorenz of Leading Results (if you need marketing coaching, I strongly recommend them), covered many topics and we did many practical exercises. One of these exercises was teaming up in groups of three to critique each others business cards.

This was very useful and telling and led me to reconsider our card design at Azamba. Particularly because our card had a flipping typo in it!

Luckily, I’m not that beholden to my business cards these days since I discovered this thing called the Internet and have found that I can connect to people easily through handing out my LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter handle. Not a lot of use for cards these days really so it makes it a good opportunity to stretch your creative muscles and do something “fun.”

In that vein and with the upcoming Sage Summit 2012 conference, I thought it was a good time to revist the cards and get a new batch printed.

One route to go with keeping it fun is the collectible, baseball-card like approach with MeetMeme which I was introduced at Sage Summit 2011 by Jess Vento (read more about these cards here).

My group decided to explore a more minimalist version of our previous cards and came up with this:

Since I am not able to avail myself of my peers in the Sage Marketing Academy, I throw it out to you dear readers to let me know what you think.

Good, bad, ugly? What do you like? What do you hate?

While I am deeply in love with the minimalist look and feel, one thing that I somewhat regret is the lack of the LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter handles. The saving grace – in theory – is that our website should have a contact us page that allows people to connect to us via the various social media mechanisms. (We don’t have that page yet but we should before the upcoming Sage Summit conference – stay tuned.)

Hopefully this approach gives others the courage to try something new with their cards. If you have an interesting take on your own cards, stop by and show me at Sage Summit next week. I am always looking for new, creative ideas.

PS. The first 500 to stop by will get a free card as a thank you. You lucky dogs!

The not-so-secret trick to getting the most of any networking event

I just finished up a Google hangout (for those who don’t know: it’s the space-age version of a party chat line with video added to the audio) discussing the pending Sage Summit 2012 annual conference.

Ably led by Greg Tirico, the common message that I heard coming from the group was: be prepared. Know what you are looking to get out of the conference before you go and that will maximize the value that you receive.

It’s easy to see why being prepared is so important.

The Sage Events team has assembled a lot of activities, content filled sessions, networking opportunities and squeezed in some (a small bit) of free time so you can do some informal networking and knowledge sharing. If you don’t go in with a plan, you might find yourself like a kid in the candy store – not knowing which way to turn.

Taking that advice to heart, I have created my own Action Plan! to coordinate my activities. I have highlighted must-attend meetings and sessions in a certain color and my internal team meetings in another color and used a different color for nice, but not essential activities. This way, if I run into someone that wants to share ideas or swap stories, I can immediately see my schedule and make sure I’m not creating a conflict for myself or another pre-arranged appointment.

I am also including cell phone numbers on the Action Plan! for everyone that I’m meeting with to ensure we can text or call to connect. In previous years, I have been running late or waiting for the other party who was running late and had no way to reach out to them.

Which brings up another tip that falls under the “be prepared” bucket: load up your phone with common contacts. So many times in the past, I receive a text message saying “hey you want to meet up?” – or something similar – from an unrecognized number. This year I have done my best to pre-load all the cell numbers of common contacts so I’m not left scratching my head wondering who I’m meeting up with.

And, countering my earlier advice, my final tip that I will offer is be prepared to go off-plan. No, you don’t want to miss any of your must-do things but if, in your travels through the conference, you encounter somone interesting with a lot of great experiences, don’t be in such a rush to move along.

I personally find that it’s the chance, informal encounters that act as the glue for the entire conference and help firm up the overall value.

If you have any tips that you would like to share, please add them in the comments – people would love to see them!

On pissing in the punchbowl and NetSuite

ImageDisclaimer: while some of my best friends in the world work at NetSuite, this article is not a paid endorsement of NetSuite or their tactics.

Sage Summit 2012 is mere weeks away and I personally am very excited to once again be meeting up with the diverse and talented pool of people that make up the Sage ecosystem - the employees, the partners and the customers. It’s a necessity for anyone that wants to sharpen the saw and find out what’s coming down the road for Sage.

Looking back to last year, the entire events team really outdid themselves (search this site for the numerous articles – it was a blast) and they set the bar high for themselves.

No worries though!

Not content to rest on their success, it seems that the events team took feedback from last year to heart and have made some improvements in key areas. One area in particular that seems to have received a shot in the arm is the formal content. There seems to be a lot more in the way of valuable sessions in all areas – including marketing and business development which are my favorite tracks.

In addition, they are trying out some new, innovative ideas to help attendees actively network and get information from their peers with the Sage City concept. Sage City addresses some of the concerns of networking in such a big crowd and it allows like-minded people to come together to talk and share ideas.

I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

For me, like many who attend, the value is in the informal get-togethers in between the sessions and the structured events to share war stories with other like-minded business owners. If Sage City improves on those experiences, that’s a good thing.

In general, the event itself is always well organized, fast-moving and over too soon.

I struggle organizing lunch for my small business so I can only imagine all the challenges that it takes to coordinate something of this scale and make it seem so effortless. The entire events team deserves a lot of respect for pulling this feat off and continuing to up the ante each and every year.

With all that in mind, I saw that one of the Sage competitors, NetSuite, has decided to crash the party and piss in the punchbowl.

I suppose the management at NetSuite has seen some of the changes at Sage and in the Sage channel and felt that this is a great opportunity for them to pick up some business. I have to ask if this is the impression that they want to make?

In my head, I’m imagining a lawyer chasing an ambulance
… or a desperate fan stalking a celebrity
… or boiler rooms calling on old folks with their latest pump and dump scheme to defraud them of their life savings
… or a used car salesman in their prime trying to fleece an earnest buyer.

Fill in your own image.

It’s not a flattering picture frankly and it’s downright disrespectful to a lot of hard-working folks who have put a lot of effort in to making Sage Summit 2012 a success. I don’t think any more needs to be said about what many are calling despicable actions except to leave off with this:

“We are our choices.”
―    Jean-Paul Sartre

[UPDATE: I have had some individuals approach me via forums and privately and ask me what the beef is here and what is unethical about this behavior. Some feel that all is fair in love and war (and business).

I agree but I also feel - as the final quote sums up nicely - we are defined by our choices and actions. I think this is a question for each of us to decide individually: how do you want to be defined?]

 

The Road Ahead for Sage

http://www.flickr.com/photos/qmnonic/266203795/sizes/z/in/photostream/Recently Dennis Howlett, self-proclaimed no-nonsense purveyor of truth in matters pertaining to enterprise IT, penned an article called “Sage on the road to nowhere.” As a long-time observer of Sage UK, Mr. Howlett makes some tough and mostly accurate assessments of the current situation and the challenges faced by Sage as they shift to addressing new customer expectations in the increasingly Cloud-based world of software applications.

Luckily for all involved, Sage leadership has seemingly woken up to these new, and growing, set of expectations and now it’s a matter of proper, disciplined execution on the road ahead. There is no doubt that this journey of transformation will continue to experience bumps in the road with some painful ramifications for many involved.

But it’s completely necessary if Sage wants to survive in the new economy.

If you don’t believe this, consider companies like Blockbuster Video, RIM, Sears, Best Buy and others that – not waking up in time to the transformations in their particular industries – have been either put out of business completely or dramatically crippled.

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